Claire Williams gives vote of confidence for Felipe Massa

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After a dreary 2013, Williams has moved into the lead pack in Formula One. The Grove gang currently sits third in the constructors’ championship, and their second-year pilot, Valtteri Bottas, has earned three consecutive podium finishes.

On the other side of the coin, veteran driver Felipe Massa has had to swallow three DNFs in his last four outings, including first-lap incidents in the last two races at Silverstone and Hockenheim.

But deputy team principal Claire Williams is not perturbed about Massa’s recent woes.

In a Q&A session on F1’s official website, she insists that the Brazilian has brought just what the team was looking for.

“Felipe is delivering what we hoped that he would deliver and bring to the team: the experience that he has in F1,” she said. “He has done a huge amount of work with the engineering department to develop the car.

“It is a real inspiration to everybody in the team bringing in somebody of his caliber. It was a very strong message that we wanted to deliver to the team and the world that we are very serious about our goals.”

When asked if Massa was feeling uncomfortable about the success that Bottas (91 points, fifth in the drivers’ standings) has experienced, Williams replied in the negative.

“Not at all,” she said. “Felipe is doing a great job – he’s just suffered from some really bad luck. He is mature enough – and has enough experience in the sport – to realize that sometimes things don’t go your way. It isn’t getting him down.”

As for the team’s current run of success, Williams downplayed the thought that her squad is currently at “best of the rest” behind the dominant Mercedes works team.

But she does believe that second-place constructor Red Bull can be caught by season’s end; the defending World Champions currently hold P2 in the constructors’ standings by 67 points.

A second-half resurgence from Massa would no doubt help the cause, but Williams also has confidence that her team can stay on top of developing its Mercedes-powered FW36.

“We have always been a team that has developed our cars over the course of the season – and we have got resources in-house,”she said. “So there is no reason why we shouldn’t continue doing what we are doing now and build on the consistency that we have now.

“I definitely think that we can keep this momentum going. Where we are now is a far cry from where we were at the same time last year.”

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.